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What are the rights available to a husband if he is unable to maintain himself in the process of divorce?

In all the laws in our country, husband is always liable to take care of his family.  He is required to earn and protect his family.  As we know, we have so many religions in our country and each religion has its own personal laws.  Marriages of Hindu people governed by Hindu Marriage Act, wherein it is stipulated that he is responsible to provide basic amenities such as food, shelter and clothes to all his dependents, who are parents, wife and children and should provide the amenities what he is enjoying.  He could not escape from the very basic responsibility towards his family members.  In Govind Singh v. Smt. Vidya reported in A.I.R. 1999 Rajasthan, it was held that “it is true that Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 entitles either party to move an application for maintenance provided such party has no means of subsistence and the other party is in a position to provide maintenance. But it does not mean that the husband who is otherwise capable of earning his living should stop earning the living and start depending on earning of his wife.”  In A.I.R. 2001 Madhya Pradesh Yashpal Singh Thakur v. Smt. Anjana Rajput, it was held that “husband petitioner has, by his own conduct decided to lead a leisurely life, and has made no attempts to earn money which he is capable of earning. He can not afford to incapacitate himself and sustain an application under Section 24 of the Act” If he is not doing so, he is deemed to be considered as being negligent and he will be liable to be arrested under Criminal Procedure Code which stipulates the basic maintenance to all the family members even to the illegitimate minor child.  In the Muslim personal laws also, husband is liable to maintain his wife for three months and 2 years of his minor son even after divorce.  The very object of all the Acts such as Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, Hindu Marriage Act, Special Marriage Act, Divorce Act, are to protect the rights of the women in the male dominant society.  If Acts provided any rights to the husband, the very object of these Acts will be defeated. In law provisions with regard to rights of husband not given as they are enjoying the rights by default in the society and that is why we say our society as a male-dominated society.  Women are still struggling to get equal rights to that of men and this is not only in our country, but across the world.  In the divorce proceedings, if the husband is unable to maintain himself, the court would not exempt him from his moral and legal duty to maintain himself and also to maintain his family members. The duty to maintain his dependents can be enforced under Section 20 of Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, in which it states that a Hindu is bound to maintain his legitimate and illegitimate children, aged parents includes a childless stepmother, and he could be relieved from his duty only when any of them had means to maintain themselves. In Shail Kumari Devi & Anr. Versus Kishun B. Pathak, it was held that “maintenance is a right which accrues to a wife against her husband the minute she gets married to the latter.  It is not only a moral obligation but is also a legal duty cast upon the husband to maintain his wife”.

By Anitha Gutti